Karen: I think I WOULD get a headache if my refrigerator, car, air conditioner and other appliances started sending me texts. And then I'd probably get a text saying my blood pressure was rising.... ;-O
@Tom Good point about how long, and do we even need some of these services? Frankly, the fact that my refrigerator doesn't automatically order food for me isn't causing me any great headaches at the moment.
Thanks Pierre. Good thoughts. I do like the idea of a freezer that gives you a warning that it is on the fritz (although a built-in alarm would work for most people). Some of this reminds me of the discussions of how some folks can now use a mobile phone to turn on the air conditioning before they get home. Great concept, but I have yet to meet anyone who does that. Most people just set timers and leave them that way for months, right?
The more I think about this, the more I think that people are going to be the big challenge here. And if they don't think they need it, why go through all the cost and bother of creating it?
Hi @Tom Murphy: the refrigerator you mention is a nice example. I guess people don't need a fridge with a touchpanel and internet access mounted on the door, the thing which a whitegood manufacturer tried to sell for years ("what would I use it for"). However, the Nespresso coffee machine which recognises your favorite taste and allows you to order extra at the touch of a button, via your Facebook login at Nespresso.com, is compelling. Or the Whirlpool freezer which allows for remote warning, if your freezer stops working... It starts adding value, if it's just with a single click and/or a simple notification on your phone. From a technology perspective, it was all possible for decades already. However it get's attractive, due to an existing eco-system massively adopted by peope (smartphones, mobile internet). It's the tools for OEMs to enable integrations across verticals which might make a difference to also start offering applications beyond the single devices, I guess that's the glue which @Rick Merritt was referring to...
When I say "food freshness", I am referring to use in the supply chain rather than the home refrigerator (though I have often longed for a device to point out to me that there is a mystery science experiment going on back there where I haven't looked for ages...): waste of perishable goods due to improper storage and transportation. "Sell by" stamps are a poor substitute for time/temperature histories, and this is a multi-billion dollar problem.
But the control issue is related to security and privacy, and is very much an elephant in the room. New technologies often can be used for good and bad, and this is no exception. How access to the data is controlled, and how it may be responded to, are critical social questions. As with the Internet, I think more access to information is good, but it is easy to see how it can be abused. I definitely do not have the answer, other than to say that some system of effective checks and balances, and/or external audits, has to be in place.
JRS et al: I think it is only through conversation that people are able to think-through the social and cultural issues related to IoT, and I hope nobody would be shy about joining in.
As for sensors, yes, I like the idea of medical sensors for those who need/want them, particularly in a society where 78 million boomers are now drifting towards their golden years (the eldest boomers are now 67; the youngest are 49). And while it sounds like a good idea to use sensors for water and energy conservation, or food freshness, I think the devil may be in the details there. I mean, really? Do I need something other than my nose to tell me my milk has turned? Do I want my fridge to order more (no).
And who will control all that energy conservation -- great goal, but I just heard an ad from my power company advising me not to use my personal computer before 7 pm. Soon, I expect power comapanies to limit energy use through smart meters. Will sensors give power companies the option of turning off your TV in the middle of your favorite show? Or shut down a computer as you tweak a complex spreadsheet? I wonder.
Admittedly, I'm borrowing trouble here. I'm trying to see the negatives so that they can be avoided. So please accept these questions in that light.
Tom: I hope people aren't getting totally tired of the dialog; I think this has been a good exchange! To your point, there is a difference between industrial and consumer customers for the IoT concept, and I totally agree with your skeptical questions about consumer apps. There are lot of things we'd "like", but they have to be actually easier and better than what we have, and that isn't so simple.
There are five areas where I think these pervasive sensors can have immediate impact which is socially (and economically) useful: mobile medical monitoring, lighting control, water conservation, food freshness, and general energy conservation. The first is the biggest "present" market. The others are emerging (with water being the furthest behind), and the main question hindering them is "who pays?" Several parties benefit, but one has to see enough short-term benefit to make the investment. But none of these would make life more complicated for the individual consumer.
Pierre: You're absolutely right. Technology tends to be available for a long time before businesses adopt it and people start using it. It takes time. EG: bar scanning has been available for, what, at least 15 years? But it was only in the past couple of years that a few large supermarket chains started letting customers scan their own groceries, and it has only been the past year that some are letting them use their mobile phones to do so.
People have a lot of expenses these days and not much extra income. So the idea of buying an IoT refrigerator just isn't high on the list.
This discussion is making me wonder how long it will be before we actually have refrigerators that order food for you and other such gizmos. In the late 90s, they were expected by 2002. A decade later, a few exist, but I wouldn't say they're common. Will we all have those...ever? Is it desireable? Or is it one more thing to convenience/nuisance to remember when you're going on vacation or a long business trip? ("Oh, I have to reprogram the fridge not to order anything while I'm gone. And I have to tall the house not to stay cool.") Right now, I just have to remember to stop the snail mail, and that's enough of a bother.
Replay available now: A handful of emerging network technologies are competing to be the preferred wide-area connection for the Internet of Things. All claim lower costs and power use than cellular but none have wide deployment yet. Listen in as proponents of leading contenders make their case to be the metro or national IoT network of the future. Rick Merritt, EE Times Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, moderators this discussion. Join in and ask his guests questions.